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Making History: Subcommittee saving cottages, spreading historic recognition

December 5, 2018
By JESSE MEADOWS ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The Historic Preservation Advisory Committee is ready to continue its work preserving the island's historic structures.

They held their first official meeting on Nov. 27 in council chambers.

In the past, the subcommittee was operating through the LPA, unaware that their members had to be officially appointed by Town Council, which meant they had not been formed correctly.

They have been working on reorganizing the committee since May.

"It took us a while to get everybody approved, go through the right channels, and do it correctly, so when we do things and we push it up to the LPA, they're legit," said Scott Safford, who the committee appointed to chair at the meeting.

Lorrie Wolff was elected vice chair. Members Patrick McKeown and Betty Simpson were also present, with Susan Dzyacky attending via phone.

Safford said the committee has two goals: spreading the word about historic recognition, and saving the island's cottages.

"We need to let all the owners of property in the town know that they can get recognized. I personally found out that our property was the first public library in Lee County," Safford said.

He owns the Sea Gypsy Inn with his wife, Jackie Liszak.

The building's gift shop was built in the 1920s and moved to its current location, Safford said, where it became a library.

He is proud of their historic recognition plaque and the conversations it often sparks with his guests.

A structure or site must be at least 50 years old to qualify for historic recognition.

Dzyacky has compiled a 25-page list of more than 300 eligible properties throughout Fort Myers Beach.

There are four categories: CH1, or Historic Designation, CH2, or Historic Recognition, CH3, or Historic Significance, and CH4, Historic Interest.

"Historic Recognition is just a statement that you're here, we see you, and you meet these minimum requirements. Designation is a much more precise ruling," explained Wolff.

Interested homeowners can fill out an application for their properties.

"It's a simple form. You fill it out, submit it to our committee, and we approve it. It goes up to the LPA, they approve it, then the council approves it, and you get a plaque," said Safford.

He noted that some homeowners have expressed concerns that historic status would prevent them from doing renovations, but he said this is not the case for the historic recognition category.

The committee is still working to land a historic cottage previously located at 3360 Estero Blvd. in a new home.

Though it is believed to have been built somewhere between 1918 and 1921, the cottage's earliest appearance in the records was around 1940.

Russ Carter of the Estero Island Historic Society updated the committee on the status of the cottage at the meeting.

"Six weeks ago, I decided to reignite the pilot lights under everybody who's involved," he said.

In the summer of 2017, the cottage was picked up and moved in the middle of the night by Joe Orlandini.

His business partner, Michael Huffman, is the owner.

They donated the cottage to the EIHS, which worked with the county to find a home for it on the Society's land behind the school, near the Matanzas Pass Preserve.

The process has taken over a year, and they are now waiting on their historic designation application to be reviewed and approved.

Orlandini has pledged to renovate the cottage.

It will be moved to its new home when they get the green light from the county.

"Our goal is to work really hard to find a landing place for these cottages. Whether it be one here, one there, or a little community of cottages. It would be wonderful, but that's a factor of finding the right land," said Safford.

In the event that they can't save a particular cottage, he said they would try to salvage artifacts or pieces of the original structure, and photograph the building before it is destroyed.

Though the town is currently struggling to preserve its history while it moves forward with new development, Safford said one does not have to preclude the other.

"We're not anti-development... I think it makes everybody better. But I still like my funky old building."

Their next steps will focus on determining a budget and raising funds.

Two seats are still available on the committee, which will meet every fourth Tuesday of the month.



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